We recently discovered that the Museum of Nature has a really cool science club for kids ages 4 to 13 (?)
The kids bring in "interesting" things that they find, like rocks and leaves. They trade for points, which they can redeem for other interesting things, like fossils and shells.
Elizabeth made her very first trade the other day. She brought in a couple of rocks and took home a shinier rock and a shell. She also brought in a nest that Auntie Karen found, because she wanted to know more about it. They gave her a specimen box to keep it in and explained how to kill any bug living in it (store in freezer for two weeks).
We'd already figured out that it was a "cup" nest, and therefore probably belonging to a songbird. It was small, so the bird had to be small. We have a lot of chickadees, cardinals, starlings and crows living in our backyard. Elizabeth figured the only bird that matched had to be the chickadee. But chickadees make their nests in hollows. The scientist at the museum was interested in the nest, because it was mainly made of string and deer hair and what she thought was larch branches. That was strange - we don't have deer or larch trees near us. She felt it was hard to say what kind of bird exactly from the nest, but theorized a sparrow of some kind. Elizabeth immediately dragged Matthew and me off to the bird section, so she could look at sparrows.
Brendan thought it would be hard to gather "interesting stuff" but we have a huge collection of items waiting to be traded and a growing collections of treasures that have been deemed "too special" to give up. Bull rushes, turtle shell pieces, a caterpillar chrysalis, a piece of chameleon skin...